Sarasota Yacht Club wants to race in Marina Hemingway Yacht Club regatta in Havana Cuba
Posted: 24 March 2009 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]
Administrator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  992
Joined  2005-11-19

By Toni Whitt

Now that President Barack Obama has taken office, a group of sailing enthusiasts are hoping to reopen routes from Florida to Cuba through competitive sailing events.

Jay Meyer, a member of Sarasota Yacht Club’s sailing team, has applied with the federal government for permission to compete in a sailing regatta off Cuba’s coast—something he last did 15 years ago, before the United States prohibited virtually all travel to the island nation.

While travel to Cuba is still heavily regulated, Meyer is hoping the new administration will allow him to take as many as 100 sailboats, yachts, powerboats and their crews to Cuba for a 15-mile race in June.

At least one expert in global trade relations believes Meyer might have a shot at it this year.

This month, the Obama administration relaxed some travel restrictions, allowing relatives to visit their family members in Cuba once a year, rather than once every three years, and expanding the definition of family members to include cousins, aunts and uncles.

Because the sailors would not be visiting relatives, they must apply for a specific license from the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which permits travel for competitive events under strict guidelines.

Cuba’s sailing team and its Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba initiated the request after inviting the Sarasota Yacht Club to participate in an offshore race near Havana. It would restore a 70-year-old international tradition.

Several members of the Sarasota Yacht Club are hoping that if they can get the permit, their effort might reopen Cuba for regular regattas.

Don Payzant, the fleet captain for the Yacht Club, said Cuba and sailing clubs from the west coast of Florida regularly raced until Fidel Castro’s coup in 1959. There were still occasional races in the ensuing years.

Cindy Clifton, who organizes regattas for the yacht club, said her husband has been to Cuba for racing events a dozen times. He made friends there whom he has not seen in years.

The Sarasota Sailing Squadron organized an 84-boat race to Cuba in 1994. Clifton said the group organized another regatta during President George W. Bush’s first term in office, but their permits were rescinded days before the race.

“Nobody I know has gone to Cuba since 2002,” Clifton said.

Sailors formerly had little trouble going to Cuba so long as they brought along their own provisions, did not pay docking fees and did not spend money in Cuba.

But in February 2004, as part of his Homeland Security initiatives, President Bush signed a presidential proclamation declaring that U.S. boats could be boarded and seized if federal agents believed the operators were going to Cuba, citing the terrorist threat posed by that country.

In June 2004, federal indictments were issued against two Florida regatta organizers who were charged with violating the federal “Trading With the Enemy Act.”

Peter Goldsmith of the Key West Sailing Club, and Michele Geslin, a Key West sailmaker, were charged for promoting their regatta on the Internet and collecting fees from participants, without Treasury Department approval. While their race began and ended in Florida, U.S. sailboats that participated made two planned stopovers in Cuba.

In the end, the pair were fined $11,000 each and have been denied export privileges, such as organizing a regatta which apparently falls into that category, for three years.

“Clearly anybody at this point who want to travel to Cuba for any reason, wants to make sure they get the appropriate permits to travel,” said Lawrence Friedman, a partner in the Chicago-based global trade law firm Barnes, Richardson & Colburn.

Friedman said it could be easier to get permits to travel to Cuba under the current administration given the changes already approved.

“It’s not a slam dunk for them, but the fact that they are going through the process, it’s an organized sporting event and they are being careful to avoid contributing to the Cuban economy, there is a chance,” Friedman said.

“There is a history of making exceptions for actual competitions and opening trade through sports.”

Meyer said he sees an opportunity to bring back “spirited competitions” in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

Friedman said a sporting event has worked before to thaw relations.

 Signature 

Cuba consulting services

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 March 2009 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Administrator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  992
Joined  2005-11-19

Cuba’s sailing team has invited Sarasota Yacht Club (SYC) to participate in an offshore race near Havana, restoring a 70-year-old international tradition.

Citing the Sarasota club’s distinguished nautical heritage, the Hemingway International Yacht Club (HIYC) in Havana extended an invitation for US boaters to compete in the Regatta Castillo del Morro, a 15-mile race from Marina Hemingway to the port of Havana and back.

The SYC sailing team, headed by Jay Meyer, recently applied to the US government for permission to participate in the June 6th regatta.

“We see this as a chance to renew friendships between two nations that once enjoyed spirited competitions,” said Meyer. “We have also been asked to help coach or train the less experienced Cuban sailors on the technical side of the sport, a cultural exchange that would help bridge the 50-year gap between our two nations.”

Jose Escrich, commodore of the Hemingway Club and vice president of the Cuban Sailing Federation, also invited the Sarasota Yacht Club to be the official US host for a Florida Gulf Coast – Cuba offshore race, reviving a sporting event that began back in the 1930s.

“We realized we had to get to Cuba on our boats in order to race there, so why not race on our way to Cuba,” said Don Payzant, SYC fleet captain and board member. “We are hopeful that the new administration will support our efforts to reinstate this famous race.”

Escrich noted that the Sarasota Yacht Club was selected to participate in the regatta and host the prospective Florida-Cuba race because of its recognized commitment to the sport of sailing and reputation for supporting the sport.

He also noted that there is a rich history of friendship between the Cuban Sailing Team and the US boating community, noting that Gulf Coast area yacht clubs regularly competed with the Hemingway Club and other Cuban teams until 1959 when the dramatic change in Cuba’s leadership changed US-Cuban travel arrangements.

“Travel to Cuba is still heavily regulated, but there are exceptions made on a case-by-case basis,” said Meyer. “Our application explains that all U.S. sailors would be staying on our own boats and bringing our own provisions, so we would not be spending any money in Cuba.”

While waiting word from Washington, the Sarasota Yacht Club is planning a series of events to generate interest in a Florida-Cuba race, including speakers, parties and nautical forums.

 Signature 

Cuba consulting services

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 June 2009 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
10 to 29 posts
RankRank
Total Posts:  14
Joined  2009-06-14

In 1998 I went on The Havana’s Cup from St. Pete.  It was put on by an outfit calle Ocean Racing Ventures.

All went well until the 12 mile bouy. I could see Havana clear as a bell. A Cuban gun boat came along side my 38 Ft. Hunter. The Cuban Border guard ask for my passport. I showed it to him and he noticed I was born in Cuba.  “When did you abandoned Cuba” he asked. In 1961 I said, at the age of 9 years during the Peter Pan flights. He then said I would be allowed entry only if I surrender my American Passport and a new Cuban passport would be issued to me. I told him he must be drinking too much rum if he thought I was going to give him my passport. After about 30 minutes, he said I would not be allowed into Cuban waters.

Adios I said, sailed back to Key West with 3 other boats where we had a great party.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 June 2009 02:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Administrator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  992
Joined  2005-11-19

You didn’t want to stay in Cuba?

12 miles out? Can they legally go out that far? So you weren’t in Cuban waters?

 Signature 

Cuba consulting services

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 June 2009 06:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
10 to 29 posts
RankRank
Total Posts:  14
Joined  2009-06-14

12 miles is where Cuban waters begin according to international laws.  The bouy was the “entry point” for the folks involved in the Race. There were several Government boats there.

Yes I wanted to party in Cuba. I had already pre-paid the whole enchilada but I was not giving my American Passport to some Julio on a gun boat.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 June 2009 07:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Administrator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  992
Joined  2005-11-19

Of course, I understand. I was kidding when I asked if you wanted to stay in Cuba. I meant permanently.

So much for the Cuban government wanting American tourists.

 Signature 

Cuba consulting services

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 June 2009 07:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
10 to 29 posts
RankRank
Total Posts:  14
Joined  2009-06-14

Publisher,

The following year 1999 the race was being organized again by the same folks ORV.  During the registration process, I was told that there is a Cuban law that forbids any Cuban born that left Cuba prior to 1969 to return by Boat. I went as far as to contact the head of Marina Hemingway a Mr. Jose Diaz Escritch. We corresponded several times and he was trying to find out why I was turned away at the 12 mile bouy. After a few weeks, he wrote that he had checked with Cuban immigration and my entry was denied unless I secured a Cuban passport. He went on to explain that Cuba did not recognize my American citizenship because I had been “kidnapped” by the Catholic Church and forced to leave the country. I could visit by Plane but not BY BOAT ??  I kid you not.  I told him I left on a Pam Am Flight…....not by boat.  He said it made no difference. 

This guy, Mr. Escritch was very nice and cordial even giving me his phone number at the Marina. I called him one afternoon and had a good conversation with him.

I think they just didn’t want anyone to see a little Gusano sailing into Havana in a 38 ft. maxed out Hunter.  Oh well…..........there are other islands in the Caribbean.

Profile